2.3 : All Time Low 7" (1978)

For anybody with an evolving interest in British independent music in the mid 80s, the only feasible way to hear keynote Fast Product 7"s by The Human League, Gang Of Four, The Mekons & The Scars was via the EMI-licensed compilation LP, Mutant Pop: The First Year Plan. A collection of the Edinburgh based label's first half dozen singles, the scope & ambition of it's contents was/is staggering, & it's retained much of it's shock/awe value: "Being Boiled" (one of the biggest selling self-released 45s at that point, though sadly nobody was collating a national indie chart back then), "Damaged Goods" (arguably the first post-punk record), "Never Been In A Riot"/"Where Were You?" (definitely the first post-punk punk records!), & "Adult/ery" (aloof, gothic powerpop) all still sound magnificent, 30 years on.

For the fifth band on the compilation, Sheffield's 2.3 (Two Point Three), their Fast Product release remains their sole, & thereby defining, recorded statement. Formed in May 1977, 2.3 were one of the city's few genuine punk bands, March 1978's "All Time Low"/"Where To Now?" sounding like The Clash if they'd grown up on an industrialised Northern sink estate. Their frontman was Paul Bower, renown for co-publishing South Yorkshire's notorious Gunrubber 'zine with Clock DVA's Adi Newton. A legendarily enthusiastic local music scene catalyst, it's Bower who arranged The Human League's first gig (Phil Oakey: "We put a tape together & played it to Paul Bower of 2.3 & he just arranged us a show at Psalter Lane Art College, so we had to turn up. I've probably never been so scared in my life") & fortuitously passed the original "Being Boiled" demo onto D.I.Y. label guru Bob Last, immediately changing the projected course of independent musical history (& unfortunately rendering his own band obsolete, of course). Despite supporting The Banshees, Stranglers & Rezillos early on in their career, time passed 2.3 by & they split unceremoniously in December 1979, members drifting off to Artery, They Must Be Russians, & complete obscurity thereafter (Hayden Boyes-Weston's cameos on Cabaret Voltaire's early recordings excepted).

2.3 left little in the way of unreleased recordings or historical evidence in their wake. All I (very vaguely) remember seeing is their brief mention in a 2-page article about the nascent Sheffield music scene in a late '79 issue of the perennially fab Smash Hits. Eve Wood's essential Made In Sheffield documentary acknowledged Bower & co.'s important position in the city's musical lineage. Hopefully her recent sequel, The Beat Is The Law (which I've yet to see), will restore the balance further?



FAVOURITE NEW BAND ALERT. The Proper Ornaments are a side project of London (via Glasgow)'s "hotly tipped" Veronica Falls - the brainchild of guitarist James Hoare in fact, with the spuriously monickered Max Claps in tow. Undoubtedly, Veronica Falls' goth-tinged contemporisation of The Shop Assistants' fuzzy garagepop is going to propel them onto the front cover of NME/Artrocker, et al as soon as they relent & compile their handful of been-&-gone 7"s onto CD. Good luck to 'em, but Veronica Falls sound too self-consciously arch &, dare I say it, twee, to my skeptical ears. Worryingly, they remind me of C86 hangers-on The Flatmates &, sorry folks, that's not a good omen! The Proper Ornaments, however, have effortlessly captured my attention/heart/wallet, etc...

Also currently based in London, & named after a Free Design song, The Proper Ornaments have only released one 7" to date, the mesmerising must-have "Recalling"/"Are You Going Blind?", c/o San Francisco's frothy Make A Mess (home also to White Fence & the marvellous Nodzzz). Pitched somewhere between Crystal Stilts/Shimmering Stars' opiated majesty & the cream of the NZ pop underground (The Chills, most evidently), their crestfallen psych pop sound has already well & truly floored me. They're been giving "Recalling" as a loss leader recently, along with a few other tracks, so I guess it's OK for me to post them all here? My favourite of the bunch is the illusory ballad "Shining Bright" - single #2 perhaps?

N.B. They've made a video too. It's worth a look, though it's surfeit of deep, meaningful glances & studied indie petulance may encourage mild hysterics & unsightly tea spluttering amongst the jaded, et al.